By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall
Some say this is the age of the coronavirus (or whatever the deadly infection is being called this week). Perhaps it is, but more than that this is the age of incoherence. No one agrees on what the killer virus is, where it came from, whether it is a perturbation in nature (Macbeth V:1), an accident of research, or a malevolent plot. No one agrees on masks or not masks, isolation or congregation, work or no work, medical ventilators or not, treatments, schemes, dubious medicines (Macbeth IV:1), numbers of deaths, or the utility of borders (Richard II II:1).
But there is one thing that is, as Shakespeare said, as constant as the northern star (Julius Caesar III.1): your job is essential.
An economy can no more shut down than a state – if it does, it dies. People will die. A parent does not shut down his or her family: “Sorry, kids, no more eating, no more breathing – just shut down. No complaints, please; just die quietly.”
Water does not come from a tap, electricity does not come from a little box in the wall, and food does not come from the store. All goods and services are based on the physical and intellectual endeavors of human beings. The sequencing of water from an undependable and unclean state of nature requires smart, industrious human beings to drill wells, build dams, establish reservoirs, construct pipelines, devise water pumps and tanks, analyze and clean and purify water, and develop a system of maintenance.
Farming and the delivery of clean, nutritious, edible food requires a complexity of physical and intellectual endeavor possible only with a highly developed and thus orderly civilization.
Every bit of honest work contributes to life, to humanity, to civilization: farming, welding, building trucks, driving railway trains, flying planes, delivering the mail, changing the baby, planting a garden, sacking groceries, filling prescriptions, cleaning the ditches for drainage and mosquito abatement, roofing the house, waiting tables, clearing foliage from power lines, building a fence, herding cattle, selling shirts, changing the oil, washing clothes, taking a grandchild fishing, buying, learning, selling, reading, writing, calculating tree volume with a Biltmore stick just as your vocational agriculture or math teacher taught you – all these endeavors feed, clothe, and shelter us now and help carry civilization from one generation to the next.
The Book of Genesis is clear that we humans must work with the gifts given us, and that whatever God’s purposes for us, lounging in front of glowing screens and indulging in passive entertainments are not part of them. The Garden is there, yes, but if we don’t turn to and bear a hand, there’ll be nothing to eat.
I don’t have any solutions for the whatevervirus and the current discontents (wear your mask and maintain good hygiene and distance, though), but keeping people from working will – will – make things worse, not only for individual families who will lose their homes and their livelihoods, but for all of humanity. Categorizing any honest labor as nonessential is uncivilized.
Your job is essential.
Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other men’s good, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck. -Corin, As You Like It III.ii